Title: The Mango Season
Author: Amulya Malladi
Release Date: October 26, 2004
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Multicultural Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Priya Rao is returning to her home country of India after seven years of living in the United States, avoiding the topic of the marriage that her parents want to arrange for her. While in the United States, she has fallen in love with and gotten engaged to an American named Nick, a man her family knows nothing about. Knowing she has to tell her family about Nick, but unable to handle their expected disappointment, Priya dreads seeing her family again.
The Mango Season is a short but powerful read about acceptance. From the beginning of the book, it is clear that Priya’s family is important to her. She loves Nick, but at the same time, she dreads the confrontation that will come with her announcement. She doesn’t doubt what she must do for one second, but she doesn’t want to face the threats of disownment that will come with her choice to marry outside of religion, culture, and race.
Though Priya’s family does have some “typicals” in it – the meddling mother and dictator of a grandfather, to name a few – each member is carefully drawn to illustrate an aspect of Indian culture. From the thirty year old cousin who has few prospects because she is still unmarried to the cousin whose wife is still shunned because she wasn’t chosen by the family, Malladi illustrates many of the difficulties of modern day Indian culture. Seeing everything through Priya’s eyes, the Westerner who has returned home, casts and even sharper and brighter light on everything she sees. Priya is appalled by the lack of acceptance, by the low value put on women, and it’s difficult for her to realize that her family is just as guilty of this as those abstract Indian families she reads about in the news.
At the same time, though, Priya loves her family. She knows her grandfather is racist and a bigot, and isn’t afraid to challenge his views. She stands up for what she believes is right, but at the same time, she can’t help but love her grandfather. I appreciated this nuance, as it was well illustrated. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says or believes in order to care for them deeply.
At times, Priya’s reluctance to speak about Nick is frustrating. But it’s easy for the reader to see why she can’t tell the truth; so much pressure is put on her to be the good, obedient daughter, and she truly wants to be that for her parents and grandparents. But Priya also realizes she must live her own life, not the one her mother expects of her, and it’s difficult for her to truly understand that choosing Nick might indeed mean leaving behind her family. Her courage also inspires those around her to speak, and while it is a little cheesy, it’s heartwarming at the same time.
I found The Mango Season to be a quick and easy read that really spoke to me. It was a little simplistic at times, but I truly enjoyed it from beginning to end. I couldn’t put the book down because I had to know what happened to Priya. I appreciated that Malladi didn’t tie everything together with a neat little bow at the end; though she doesn’t leave the reader hanging, the ending is realistic rather than sappy and sweet. If you’re looking for a quick read about India that isn’t dark or heavy, The Mango Season is a great choice.